A makeshift display to honour the victims discovered in a mass grave at a former residential school has popped up in downtown Quesnel. The display features shoes, children's toys and a large dreamcatcher. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

2021 National Indigenous Peoples Day to go virtual in Quesnel

Online celebration to take place June 21

National Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated virtually in Quesnel on Monday, June 21.

COVID-19 has prevented the Quesnel Tillicum Society from hosting in-person festivities once again.

“This will be the second year of it being digital,” said program director Donelly Clement.

”It was an extremely difficult decision to make. We at the Friendship Centre pride ourselves in seeing people, being with people and it’s quite awkward and quite difficult not to see people in person, so we’re looking forward to next year and having it back at the Helen Dixon Centre.”

Despite the challenges of hosting a virtual celebration, at least 300 viewers had tuned in last year, Clement said.

Read More: National Indigenous Peoples Day goes virtual amid pandemic restrictions

This year will feature live and prerecorded videos from various guests discussing reconciliation in light of the remains of 215 children found buried last month at a former Kamloops residential school.

The critical importance of the region’s salmon will also be highlighted, and there will be a drumming demonstration along with a ceremony recognizing students and graduates of 2021.

The online celebration will run from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the Quesnel Tillicum Society Friendship Centre’s Facebook page and at www.quesnelfriendshipcentre.com .

“I’m just hoping that the people of Quesnel get to see, even if it is a snippet of Indigenous culture, I would much appreciate that. For a long time, we have been forgotten about, and I would love for us to be shown as having this wonderful culture, which we do have here in the Cariboo region,” Clement.

Read More: Williams Lake First Nation planning ground analysis of land near former residential school

The Tillicum Society will have its office open during that time. Anyone wanting to come by with non-monetary donations such as flowers for the 215 children and missing and murdered Indigenous people is welcome.

Flowers were offered to the Fraser River in their memory earlier this week.

“First Nations people have been saying that for years, and now people are starting to finally listen to what they have been saying for decades at this point that there are children buried at the residential schools, so maybe with the recent discovery there could be more investigations,” Clement said, noting the former St. Joseph’s Mission near Williams Lake.

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Kara Paul, June Paul, Olive Bunnah and Addison Jimmie danced in regalia during the Lhtako Dené ceremony to remember the 215 children discovered in a mass grave at a former Kamloops Residential School. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

The Nazko Drummers perform before a riverfront ceremony on June 3 to honour and remember the 215 bodies of children discovered in a mass grave at a former Kamloops Residential School. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)